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This COVID thing.

It’s Sunday March 22, 2020, and a lot has changed in the past week. In just seven days we’ve moved from hand-washing++, and social distancing with individuals, or in larger groups. We’ve gone from, “Wow! I sure hope this doesn’t get as bad as it is ‘over there'”, to realizing that it certainly could.

Clinic Day.

I work in an ER, and last week I spent bone-chilling hours outside in our hospital’s COVID Assessment Clinic. I was disheartened by the number of people implying they wouldn’t take our advice to remain at home, self-isolating.

Inside, I’ve seen the mock situations, and real-time transportation of patients with suspected COVID — a parade of porters, security, and environmental services — accompanying the gurney. You can be sure there are way more in that parade on the way to the ICU. My stomach rolls when I think that our hospitals could be impacted like Italy’s are, and yet, that is entirely possible.

Even though I try to avoid a regular diet of news, I’ve read and watched plenty about horrors suffered elsewhere. Yet, to this point, it’s all felt surreal.

But do you know what finally brought it all home? My kitchen table.

IMG_4622Exactly one week ago we had friends over for lunch. Because of the way my kitchen/great room is set up, the table is in an odd spot so I make it as small as I can when it’s not being used. But on our lunch day I raised the fold-down leafs and we had a dandy visit.

For some reason, I left the table expanded. Until today.

This afternoon I decided to lower the leafs and put things to rights. Thefullsizeoutput_2967 moment I did, I was flooded with sadness, mixed with a dose of reality. Everything going on in the world finally hit home with sobering personal impact.

Who knows when I’ll stretch out that table again, raising the leafs, and adding extra boards to bring it to it’s full length.

Who knows when we’ll be able to have someone around here that isn’t just me, my husband, and Bruce the dog?

Who knows about a whole lot of other things, some of them truly frightening.

While I continue to not worry, because I’m not the worrying sort, I’m filled with concern. Worry won’t change one thing about what’s going on, but the actions of all will sure influence the outcome.

Right now, I’m trying to understand how others are impacted by social isolation. First to mind are the children whose only safe place is school, and those who need to work, without the luxury of working from home. I think of business owners, especially small, but also large, and the migrant workers needed for food farming soon, stopped by closed borders. So many are touched in ways I can hardly imagine, and yet I trust that we will all do what we can.

matchesYou’ve seen this picture before, about stepping back, and stopping the spread, and you’ve read another meme flying around social media: “Your grandparents were called to the war. You’re called to sit on the couch and watch Netflix. You’ve got this.”

Everyone in the world asks you to please sit on that couch. Watch Netflix as hard as you can. Do it for your family, do it for your friends, and do it for the rest of us. You’ve definitely got this.



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COVID-19. Stay calm.

I know these words aren’t going to change anything, but they have to come out.

I needed a few things from the store today, and because I had a bit of cabin fever (non-COVID-19 variety) I hopped in the car and drove to our small town of Uxbridge.

The first stop was at my favourite small green-grocer’s where business is usually brisk but never overwhelming. But today — holy no parking spaces, Batman! — it was crazy. Carts were FULL of fresh fruits and veg, and aisles so crowded there was hardly a way to get through. I grabbed my few items, and then, wondering if I was a bit nuts, headed over to Walmart. Continue reading “COVID-19. Stay calm.”

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A Farm Fire Is a Terrible Thing.

Screen Shot 2020-03-10 at 4.16.12 PM

Those who know Toronto might be able to picture Victoria Park and Lawrence. For those who can’t, here’s the picture.


In a now-familiar story, the farms near this intersection are sold to developers and cleared to make way for subdivisions. My Grandad buys a 30 x 60′ barn, and he and Dad dismantle it. Many evenings, after the field work is finished, and with the help of family and friends, they haul it by wagon loads up Vic Park to Sheppard, then east to Meadowvale, and north, past what is now the Toronto Zoo, to our farm.

They reassemble the barn about thirty feet from the farmhouse, and it ends up being called “the shop”, but it’s so much more. The tools, workbenches, and welders are there, but so are the family vehicles — a pickup and two cars — and lots of accumulated stuff. The second floor is a chicken pen, holding at least two hundred chickens.



June 1962

I’m five-and-three-quarters years old, and it’s a beautiful Saturday in June. I recall nothing from that day except that, late in the afternoon, our shop catches fire. Continue reading “A Farm Fire Is a Terrible Thing.”

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I made marmalade today. I hope I don’t embarrass my mom by saying this, but I’ve never made jam in my life. Except for the occasional batch of quick-set strawberry freezer jam, which always turns out, jam-making isn’t a skill I’ve chosen to hone. Recently, though, I saw a friend’s post about marmalade preparations, and when I asked for, and received, the recipe I thought it must be a sign.

A sign?

Of what??

IMG_4226A sign that I should pick up some luscious fruit from our little local grocer, I guess. I spent a day gazing at them, imagining the golden goodness they’d be when I finally filled my jars with marmalade.

Continue reading “Mmmarmalade.”

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Dear Sara Bareilles: I hope you read this some day.

Do you know the singer Sara Bareilles? I didn’t until my 9 yr. old grandson Nolan started talking about her a year or so ago. He was excited to share some songs with me so we checked out YouTube. Now I’m a fan too.

According to Wikipedia, “Bareilles is an American singer-songwriter and actress. Her 2007 hit single “Love Song” reached no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In the third season of NBC’s The Sing-Off, Bareilles served as a celebrity judge. She composed music and wrote lyrics for the Broadway musical Waitress, earning a Tony Award nomination for Best Original Score in 2016, and a Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theatre Album. In April 2018, Bareilles received acclaim for her portrayal of Mary Magdalene in NBC’s adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, for which she was nominated for the 2018 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.

Bareilles has sold over one million albums and over nine million singles and downloads in the United States and has earned seven Grammy Award nominations, including one Album of the Year nomination for The Blessed Unrest (2013).

Sure, it’s Wikipedia, but I’ll bite. Seems like she’s a bit of a Big Deal, but big deals on stage and screen are a dime a dozen. What’s more rare are Big Deal people who can act like Small Deal people in spite of their success. That’s when magic happens.

Nolan has a great life. He has parents who love and support him, a cool bunk bed room, a ton of Lego, and a pretty cute puppy named McGriff. He has a big and tender heart, and maybe that’s why bullying, a learning challenge, and a dearth of friends, left his self-worth shattered.

During a particularly rough time his parents, Scott and Sarah, loaded an old iPod with music. Nolan used it on bus rides home from school to tune out hurtful words and cocoon himself in a positive space. It didn’t take long until they realized he was listening almost exclusively to Sara Bareilles. In the words of her songs he seemed to find respite, relaxation, and confidence.

To Nolan’s delight, his parents recently purchased tickets for a Sara Bareilles concert in D.C., not far from their home. He was excited as the time drew near, and when his dad took him to school on the morning of the concert, Nolan confidently stated, “This is going to be a great day!” At that point neither of them knew exactly how great it would turn out to be.

Not long after the drop-off Scott hit on a plan that has turned out to be the high point of his parenting career. Thinking fast, he made a stab at what might be a work email address for Ms. Bareilles, telling her a bit about Nolan’s story and asking if they might be able to meet at her concert that evening. And then, fingers firmly crossed, he launched it off into cyberspace.

Sara 3There was no response until, driving to the concert, he glanced at his email. Lo and behold, there was a reply from Sara’s manager. He handed his phone to wife Sarah and as she read the note her eyes got big and a smile grew on her face.

“Send a reply,” he told her, “Do whatever you have to to make it happen.”

They decided to tell Nolan right away, to give him a bit of time to absorb the fact that he would be meeting his singing hero. He could hardly believe it, thanking his dad over and over for the unbelievable gift. 

Sara 1Sure enough, back stage passes were waiting for them, and, surprisingly, they were the only ones to meet with Sara B. before the concert. She asked how old Nolan was, what grade he was in, and what he was learning at school. They talked about the different subjects but ended up agreeing that he would do the math he loves, and she would take care of music. The calm atmosphere of a one-on-one conversation made the time even more special for him.      

Sara 2As they wrapped up their few minutes together Scott mentioned that Nolan had said it was going to be a great day. Sara responded exuberantly, “Yes, Nolan! It is going to be a great day!”

When they were alone again, Nolan hugged and hugged his parents, thanking them over and over.

But his evening was just beginning.

Partway through the concert, Ms. Bareilles introduced her next song: “My friend Nolan is in the crowd tonight. He’s nine years old, and this song is dedicated to him.”

The song? Brave.

By Sara Bareilles
You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave


Although Scott missed the first few words on video, Nolan jumped out of his seat and pointed at himself because he thought Sara could see him from the stage. He waved as though he was accepting an award and everyone was cheering just for him. It meant so much that his Sara Bareilles said, “My friend Nolan”.



The next day when Scott showed Nolan this post from Instagram, Nolan lit up all over again.

I’m glad he’s nine now, and old enough to remember this experience. As things are starting to go well at school, the positive boost from his friend Sara Bareilles will help move things forward. A few minutes out of her day left a life-long impact on our boy Nolan.

Posted in family history, Uncategorized

My Tree of the Week.

Phyllis Dad and Tree
With Dad in June 2019. Our fingers are touching at the back of the tree.

Every weekend I get an old-fashioned, actually made out of paper, newspaper delivered to my home. It’s a comfort thing, really, and I love to sit down with the Toronto Star (usually with a bowl of popcorn at hand) and sip tea while reading. Each Saturday I make sure to read the “Tree of the Week” column, about huge trees with interesting histories that grow in the Toronto area.

Several weeks ago I was reading the column when I had one of those ah-ha moments. “I know a tree!” I said to myself, “And it has a story to tell.” A quick phone call to my dad gave me the historical details, and a quick text with the sisters made sure I didn’t miss any stories. The writing came easily, and then it all went by email to the columnist. The rest, as folks are forever saying, is history.

Here’s the story.

Continue reading “My Tree of the Week.”
Posted in humor, humour, Uncategorized

This One’s Just for Fun

braille rubiksA couple of years ago I was using writing prompts to get myself back to the page. Some bits of writing were better than others, but I had a whole lot of fun with this one. Since I don’t plan to use it anywhere else, I thought I’d share it here.

The prompt is written in caps, followed by the resulting story.


When he told the story, Arnie always started by saying he didn’t see it coming, and on every count, that was true.

Thelma hadn’t been thrilled when he called to say the guys at the office were taking him out for a spur of the moment retirement party.

“Think bachelor party, only for an old guy,” said Cameron.

“We need to liven up a Thursday evening,” Shaun added.

“Not too lively.” Daniel rolled up his shirtsleeves and stretched his arms over his head. “We’d better not kill him just when the pension’s ready to kick in.”

Continue reading “This One’s Just for Fun”